The Knife

One Sunday afternoon our family gathered around our big oak table for dinner. Soon my daughter Kate’s laughter rose above the talk. “Gram, you’re silly!” she said. We all turned to see my mom delicately lifting to her mouth a small strand of peas on the blade of her knife. All but one pea made it, and everyone clapped. Then Mom told us the story behind her unorthodox technique:

“When I was little we didn’t have much. It was the Depression. But we did have a table full of food because my father grew wonderful vegetables. Lots of hoboes who had jumped from the train wandered onto our property, looking for a meal. More often than not an extra seat was pulled up to our dinner table.

“One summer afternoon I was sweeping the kitchen floor when my father’s voice came through the screen door: ‘Lizzy, set another plate. We have company tonight.’ Our guest paused in the doorway, and dipped his head in a gesture of gratitude. ‘Looks like he doesn’t speak much English,’ Dad said, ‘but he’s hungry like we are. His name is Henry.’

“When dinner was ready Henry stood until we were all seated, then gently perched on the edge of his chair, his head bowed and his hat in his lap. The blessing was said and dishes were passed from hand to hand.

“We all waited, as was proper, for our guest to take the first bite. Henry must have been so hungry he didn’t notice us watching him as he grabbed his knife. Carefully he slid the blade into the pile of peas before him, and then lifted a quivering row to his mouth without spilling a single pea. He was eating with his knife! I looked at my sister May and we covered our mouths to muffle our snickers. Henry took another knifeful, and then another.

“My father, taking note of the glances we were exchanging, firmly set down his fork. He looked me in the eye, then took his knife and thrust it into the peas on his plate. Most of them fell off as he attempted to lift them to his mouth, but he continued until all the peas were gone.

“Dad never did use his fork that evening, because Henry didn’t. It was one of my father’s silent lessons in acceptance. He understood the need for this man to maintain his dignity, to feel comfortable in a strange place with people of different customs. Even at my young age I understood the greatness of my father’s simple act of brotherhood.”

Mom paused, looked at her grandchildren, and winked as she plowed her knife into a mountain of peas.

Contributed by Cori Connors, of Farmington, Utah, to Guideposts, March 1997, p. 36


•      I discovered I didn’t feel worth a damn, and certainly not worthy of love, unless I was accomplishing something. I suddenly realized I have never felt I could be loved just for being. – Oprah Winfrey, talk-show host, Good Housekeeping, September, 1991, p. 63

•      My drive in life is from this horrible fear of being mediocre. that’s always been pushing me, pushing me. Because even though I’ve become somebody, I still have to prove that I’m SOMEBODY. My struggle has never ended, and it probably never will. – Madonna, Quoted from Vogue, in What Jesus Would Say, by Lee Strobel

•      I had no idea who I was, or what I could be away from tennis,” says Chris Evert, recalling the final years of her career. “I was depressed and afraid because so much of my life had been defined by my being a tennis champion. I was completely lost. Winning made me feel like I was somebody. It made me feel pretty. It was like being hooked on a drug. I needed the wins, the applause, in order to have an identity. – Chris Evert, retired tennis star, Good Housekeeping, October 1990, pp. 87-88.

Jane Addams

In 1900, the Daughters of the American Revolution elected social reformer Jane Addams to honorary membership. But Addams’s antiwar stance during World War I and her insistence that even subversives had a right to trial by due process caused them to expel her. She commented that she had thought her election to the DAR was for life, but now knew it was for good behavior.

Today in the Word, March 26, 1993


Keith Hernandez is one of baseball’s top players. He is a lifetime 300 hitter who has won numerous Golden Glove awards for excellence in fielding. He’s won a batting championship for having the highest average, the Most Valuable Player award in his league, and even the World Series.

Yet with all his accomplishments, he has missed out on something crucially important to him — his father’s acceptance and recognition that what he has accomplished is valuable. Listen to what he had to say in a very candid interview about his relationship with his father:

“One day Keith asked his father, ‘Dad, I have a lifetime 300 batting average. What more do you want?’ His father replied, ‘But someday you’re going to look back and say, “I could have done more.’”

The Gift of Honor, Gary Smalley & John Trent, Ph.D. p. 116.